Many, if not most Irish pubs in the Boston area feature loud music, dancing, crowds packed into every nook and cranny, and average (at best) food. And while this may all be well and good for those who want to have a wild and crazy night out, for those of us who have spent a good amount of time in Ireland enjoying the quiet, rural pubs that exist throughout that country, it can be a bit jarring going to these places. That is why the more unassuming, quieter Boston-area pubs such as O'Leary's in Brookline and The Snug in Hingham can be so refreshing to go to, as they are friendly and relaxed, and they both have the feel of some of the roadside pubs that this writer has been to in Ireland. And The Snug seems to capture the Irish experience even more so than O'Leary's, perhaps because it resides in an historic building that, like many of its counterparts across the pond, feels more like someone's house than a commercial establishment.
The Snug is located in the center of Hingham, a quaint spot filled with historic houses and buildings. The building in which The Snug resides dates back to the 1820s, and the interior of the pub reflects this with a well-worn wooden floor, sturdy stucco walls, lazily moving ceiling fans, and attractive window curtains. A charming bar with lots of dark wood sits off to the side and includes a handful of seats. When bands aren't playing in the corner of the dining area (entertainment includes folk music and traditional Irish sessions), music coming from the likes of Van Morrison and other Irish favorites drift quietly from the speakers. The crowd is generally as mellow as the place itself, with an interesting mix of wealthy professionals, working-class folk, older couples, and seafaring types. The bartenders and the servers are as friendly as can be, treating both regulars and newcomers equally well.
The menu at The Snug doesn't really include anything that you can't get at other Irish pubs, but the food seems to be a little better than what you might get at your typical pub around Boston. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, including fluffy eggs, chunky and nicely seasoned home fries, and perfectly cooked corned beef hash in the morning (as well as a traditional Irish breakfast), soups, salads, and sandwiches at lunchtime, and a variety of entrees at dinner. Appetizers include a meaty chili as well as a hearty beef stew and a thick clam chowder, warm pretzels, fried calamari, and olives stuffed with cheese. Sandwiches include an excellent char-grilled burger that is big enough to satisfy most appetites, as well as a plate of chili cheese dogs that will likely have you thinking of the ballpark. Other sandwiches offered at The Snug include a messy and delicious hot pastrami (with the option of some of the best onion rings this side of Boston), a lean corned beef, and a fresh fish sandwich with fries and coleslaw. Entrees include several specials, such as a tasty and filling sauteed scallops dish that is sometimes served here. Steak tips are a popular item at The Snug (the marinade is a well-kept secret) and there are everyday seafood dishes on the menu, such as a huge plate of fish and chips (or fish and rings if you wish--remember, the onion rings here are excellent) as well as broiled scrod, fisherman's platter, and Maryland crab cakes. There is also the shepard's pie, which comes complete with seasoned ground beef, mashed potatoes,and corn, along with a piece of Irish soda bread. And, of course, The Snug has an extensive beer and wine list, starting with their "perfect pint" of Guinness (their pour is indeed a very good one) as well as Smithwicks and Old Speckled Hen, and several types of chardonnay on the wine side.
We almost hesitate to recommend The Snug because it is a hidden gem that also happens to be very small inside. But it is one of the few Irish pubs in the Boston area that we can wholeheartedly recommend, not just for its charm and friendly vibe, but also for its authentic feel. And yes, it certainly is nice to be able to go to an Irish watering hole that doesn't have excessively loud music, constant pushing and shoving, and so-so food. The Snug is indeed a pub that wouldn't be out of place in County Clare or Connemara, and for that we are very thankful.
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